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  1. Have just become an octogeranium! I certainly don't feel it but have to accept that it makes me an elderly gentleman!! The sort you should offer your seat to on a train.

    So, I thought I ought to splash the cash as I was keen to give my Scottish family a feel for how their old man spends his time in la Belle France with his French partner. I was also keen for my French non-step family to meet my Scottish wing. 

    For a genuine French experience, I chose the Manoir des Cavaliers near Chantilly as Chantilly is on a direct fast train line from Gare du Nord where the Eurostar travellers would arrive, and is also only thirty minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport for those flying in from Glasgow. Chantilly is a bit like the Ascot of France with a horse racing track but also has a magnificent chateau. So it's worth a visit. The Manoir is an old jockey training centre on the outskirts with six tastefully decorated bed-and-breakfast rooms plus a coach house (Maison de la Caleche), which is a luxury three bedroom self catering house. I hired the lot and the fourteen of us had the place to ourselves. Brilliant.

    As the Manoir was a bed and breakfast establishment, we held my birthday dinner in the Port Bellon restaurant in the nearby medieval town of Senlis where an unexpected bonus awaited us. For no extra cost, the proprietrix of the restaurant had arranged the use of her thirteenth century cave (wine cellar) for our aperitif - icing on the cake or what?

    Though I say it myself, it was a truly 'happy family' weekend. Must have another 80th birthday.

    Manoir des Cavaliers

    Manoir - My stylish bedroom

    Manoir - relaxing in the Maison de la Caleche









  2. On 26th September 1943, HMS Intrepid, along with the Greek Navay Ship Queen Olga, were sunk by German bombers at Port Lakki on the island of Leros in the Greek Dodecanese Islands. The Italians had just surrendered the island to the British and the Germasn were determined to take it back, and did so in a short but bloody battle. Intrepid was my father's ship.

    Six weeks later, I was born and given my father's name, I presume because my mother assumed he had been killed. But the Old Man turned up three months later, having escaped the island with the help of the Greek Resistance, a Free French destroyer, and, I guess, the Royal Navy's secretive Levant Squadron. So, I became Frederic Gladwyn Thompson Junior, and remained 'Junior' for the next 45 years!

    As my 80th birthday was therefore in November this year, I decided to visit Leros and attend the 80th Anniversary Commeroration of both sinkings. This is a big event for the Greek Navy as the Queen Olga blew up and was lost with all hands whereas Intrepid took 24 hours to sink and apart from those killed by the bomb explosion, the rest of the crew escaped.

    The visit was a moving and spiritual three days as I met three other 'sons of Intrepid' whose fathers had also survived, plus one grandson whose grandfather had been killed. We were united only by the sinking of Intrepid and had all decided individually to attend the commemoration and remember the event and those who were lost. That was the spiritual bit.

    Leros is a small and beautiful island off the main tourist track. I got there by flying on a tourist flight to Rhodes and taking the Rhodes-Piraeus ferry which calls in at Leros, in itself an enjoyable 5 hour cruise. At Port Lakki, there is a rather beautiful memorial to Intrepid, and over the hill at Agia Marina, there is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery where a touching British service of remembrance was held. In Lakki, a larger service was conducted by the Greek Navy.

    By an astonishing coincidence, the Captain of Intrepid, Commander Charles Arthur de Winton Kitcat Royal Navy, who was severely wounded, was the godfather to my captain in HMS Revenge 35 years later. The coincidence is even greater. My captain's father had been Kitcat's Engineer Officer, and I was the Engineer Officer of Revenge. 

    One day, I hope to return to Leros.

    IMG_1535 2IMG_1648 2IMG_1635 2Leros Intrepid memorial by nightLeros Panteli harbourLeros Panteli village 2Leros from the castle



  3. On my way home from Cornwall, I decided to divert off the M6 Toll and visit the new Submariner Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield. I expected to find a cemetery sort of place with few people visiting. I could hardly have been more wrong: it is a very large estate; there were overflow carparks (pre-booking of parking advised); and the place was mobbed, mainly with middle-to-older aged gents wearing Royal British Legion blazers and badges, though it is not exclusively military.

    Another surprise was to find literally hundreds of middle-to-older aged motorcyclists, resplendent in their biker leathers which were universally covered in badges and mottos informing the world of which service they had once served-in. I had arrived on the day of the Royal British Legion Motorcycle Association annual remembrance service. It completely flipped my image of ton-up kids.

    Submariner Memorial 1

    The Submariner Memorial was wonderfully conceived and created, and told its own story without the need for explanation. It stood on a grass plinth at the back end of the Royal Navy field and gave the visual impression of a nuclear submarine surfacing through the grass. The fin is split and inside stands a lifesize statue of a submariner looking upwards, as if towards the surface. On one side of the fin is a memorial to the submariners' families and loved ones; on the other is the submariners' dolphin badge and  Churchill's famous tribute to the Submarine Service in World War 2.

    Submariner Memorial 4

    Whilst every memorial - many merely single trees - was moving, two gave me particular reason to pause for thought. One was in memory of the 346 British soldiers who were executed by firing squads from their own side. Though some were guilty of murder, many were shot for cowardice, what today would probably have been diagnosed as traumatic stress disorder. The memorial portrays a seventeen-year-old soldier, blindfolded, and tied to a stake, arms tied behind him. The statue is surrounded by a semicircle of stakes bearing the names of all who were thus executed. This memorial only became possible when, in 2006, the British Government posthumously pardoned all soldiers who had been executed. War is ugly in so many ways. Best to be avoided. (That's why I was happy to serve in our strategic nuclear deterrent).


    The other particularly moving memorial was the remembrance garden for stillborn babies. They never had a life.

    I spent three hours in the arboretum and left with three words in mind:





  4. As a member of the Helensburgh Writers Workshop, I was able to enter the first 15,000 words of my draft novel, 'Torpedoes Galore', in the Unpublished General Novel category of the Scottish Association of Writers annual competitions 2023. I was delighted to discover at the awards ceremony that it had won a  'Commended'.

    The book was inspired by Compton Mackenzie’s ‘Whisky Galore’ and ‘Rockets Galore’ (‘Local Hero’ is in similar genre) and it has been an ambition of mine to write it ever since I served as a young officer on the RN Torpedo Trials Unit, which went up to Kyle of Lochalsh to set up a torpedo testing range. It's only taken me fifty years to write!!

    My story satirises the impact of the Navy’s arrival on a remote West Highland community where it is opposed by anti-nuclear protesters, the kirk, and Scottish nationalists. The tale set out originlly to be a pure comedy and still is laced with humour, some of it black, but is now a drama.

    The Adjudicator told me that she thought my manuscript was brilliant but could not give it first prize as she did not like the title or my synopsis, which she thought suggested a Carry On film type sex romp, which it is not. Based on her critique, I have now changed the title to 'Unofficial Secrets' and re-written the synopsis. The book is now complete, so I am about to search for an agent or publisher. 

    Lindsay Drummond, a fellow member of Helensburgh Writers Workshop, was even more successful. She won First Prize and a trophy in the Young Adult Fiction section. She has a real future as a writer.

    Jim McKean, a new member of the Workshop, entered a Short Story where the competition was massive (over 50 entries) but unfortunately did not win a prize this time. For me, the SAW competitions are not about winning; they're about getting the critiques from professional writers, a unique benefit from SAW membership. Few other competitions provide such feedback; so, one never learns. 

    L-R Eric Thompson, Lindsay Drummond (with trophy), and Jim McKean

    IMG_0824   A 

  5. Yesterday, I was guest speaker at the Edinburgh Writers Club, Scotland's most prestigious writers club; the members are always winning prizes in the Scottish Association of Writers Clubs annual competitions. I was there, not because I am a famous Scottish writer but because Olga, their current president, had kindly come to speak at my own club, Helensburgh Writers Workshop. My talk was the proverbial quid pro quo. It seemed to go down very well.
    As I was asked to speak about my writing experience, I have inserted my script in the Writing section of the website. It may be of interest to others who are interested in writing. The 'great video' was already on the website.
    Olga's thank you message. 
    Dear Eric 
    Thank you for a superb talk this evening - you held your audience spellbound! It was fascinating to hear about your autobiography in the context of your writing, and to have the readings and that great video. 
    Very best wishes to you both, and happy writing! 
    Olga Wotjas, President Edinburgh Writers Club

    Edinburgh Writers Club

  6. Since moving to my rural cottage thirty years ago, I have loved listening to the local buzzards whistling to each other as they soar overhead. So much so that I installed a 'buzzard pole' in front of my kitchen window in the hope that they would take to perching on it. (They perch on the telegraph poles up my access road). No such luck, though every other breed of bird round here perches on it! The woodpeckers like to land halfway up and then walk up to the top. The lovey-doveys sit on the top as a pair.

    In May, I noticed a lot of buzzard activity around the small crop of trees in my nature reserve (i.e. abandoned waste ground). When I went to investigate, O joy O rapture, I discovered a buzzard's nest abour thirty feet up in one of my trees, with a baby buzzard gazing down at me (see photo below). I have now watched it grow up, spread its wings, and leave the nest. It was then forever gliding round my garden and calling, just like a baby, for its parents, who seem to have left him/her to make its own way in life (good idea).

    Am wondering if the nest will be used again next Spring.

    Baby Buzzard 7Baby Buzzard 2Baby Buzzard 1

  7. Last night I had dinner in Glasgow with US Navy Admiral Jerry Holland (ret'd) and his wife Anne. I had never met them before. Jerry had contacted a couple of years ago with a copy of the very generous book review on my "On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service' he had written for the US Navy's Historical Society magazine. That in turn led to e-contact with Captain Jim Patton USN (RIP 2022) who also wrote a flattering review for the USN Submarine League magazine, as a result of which I was invited to write an article by Captain Mike Hewitt USN, the magazine's editor. (I wrote a 'A Brief History of the the British Submarine Service', which was duly published). All three were ex USN submarine captains and Jerry had been head of the USN's Pacific Submarine fleet, but until last night I had not met any of them.

    When having dinner with Jerry and Anne, now senior citizens, I felt as if we had been friends for life. We finished the meal with a toast to 'Absent Friends - the late Jim and editor Mike'. When I informed Mike of this, I received this reply:

    'Eric, I'm honored that you and the Hollands remembered Jim and me at your soiree in Glasgow. I would have liked to have been at that table in person. Cheers, my friend. Mike'

    I find it so life affirming that across continents and in different navies, such spiritual bonds of friendship can be created between strangers. 

    It is ironic that submariners who are trained to kill are the most friendly people in the world and virtually blood brothers. Would that the rest of the world was so friendly.





    In 2019, I was interviewed by TV presenter and historian, Dan Snow, for his History Hit TV channel. I thought it would be an opportunity to promote my book, but no such luck. However, a veteran submariner in New Zealand, a complete stranger, recently e-mailed me to ask a difficult technical question about A Class submarines and said that he had seen the interview on Youtube. I had not, but there it was. It also had a lot of responses, unknown to me, many debating my age!! Here is the link:


  9. I heard a cow mooing in the field below my cottage. It seemed rather more of an agonised moan than a moo, as if the animal had a sore throat. As it kept giving these agonised moos every so often, I went to investigate and spotted a cow lying on its side close by my fence. As it seemed to be bloated, I thought it was dead but then saw a back leg move a little in the air, as if blowing in the wind. I phoned the farmer, who is only renting the field. He turned up about twenty minutes later in his pick up truck.

    As I don't know him peraonally, I went down to say that I was the guy who phoned him. He was on his own and clearly under stress. He replied by asking me to get into his pick up truck and drive it slowly forward to pull the calf out! The cow had been in labour but seemed to have fallen into a hollow in the field and could not get up.

    The calf was already dead and half out of the cow. The farmer had put a rope round it and tied that round the towing ball on his pick up truck. Now he wanted me, a complete stranger, to drive the truck and pull the dead calf out of the cow. What a terrifying prospect. I feared that my foot might slip on the clutch and I would rip out the poor cow's innards. In fact, I did very well, literally inching the truck forward and after about a foot, the farmer called, 'Stop'. The calf was out.  

    It was all very sad. There was a perfectly well formed calf which should have been up on its legs looking for milk but was lying dead in a huge pool of after birth, and the cow was still unable to get up. While all this was happeniong, the rest of the herd came up from the far end of the field and literally started poking their noses around me, the dead calf and the stricken cow.

    I won't attempt to describe how the farmer got the cow back on its feet but it was both brutal and impressive. The poor animal was trembling with shock and fear but once up on its feet, it made a remarkable recovery and wandered off with the rest of the herd. A partially happy ending.


  10. Living in my cottage is like living in a nature hide. When I replenish the bird feeders, it becomes like a Heathrow for birds. No idea who's doing the air traffic control. I've noted over 70 different varieties in my thirty years here.

    Over recent days, I've noticed that a young Blackbird has become exceptionally bold and flies down close beside me when I'm putting out fresh seed as the Robins do. I even find it sitting on the bird table waiting for me in the mornings (see photo). It gets tucked in as soon as I've put seeds on the bird table and is unfazed by my moving about close by. Is this the precociousness of youth, bird-style? I've now started repeating a signature whistle when I go out, in the hope that it will recognise it and come when I call. (Not sure yet whether it is a young male or female; they change plumage in their second year).

    I love communicating with the animals. There is a resident family of Buzzards near here. I just love to hear their whistle overhead - to me it's an 'all's well' sound. For years, I've been mimicking it when I see them with minor success. On several occasions, I've persuaded a buzzard to come from a fair distance to hover about one hundred feet above my head but that's as close as they come. I've put up an old telegraph pole in front of the kitchen window in the hope that they will come and perch on it, as they do down the farm track, but so far no luck. However, all the other birds love it, especially the Woodpeckers.

    When I was doing blue water sailing, I used to play my harmonica to dolphins which were only a few feet below me. I'm convinved they enjoyed the recitals. After all, my Alsatian dogs used to throw their heads back and howl when I played it, and dolphins are mammals just like us and have the same airborne hearing systems.

    Mrs Blackbird

  11. Ever thought that British birds lacked colour and that exotic birds can be found only in the tropics? How about these. Photographed from my kitchen window.

    L - R Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Jay, Great Tit (young), Robin, Woodpecker, Redpoll, Siskin but even the all-black crow is a handsome bird

    Chaffinch 3Goldfinch 3Jay 3Great Tit 1RobinWoodpecker 1RedpollSiskin 1Crow 1

  12. With experience of real lock down in submarines, lock down at home for Covid 19 caused me no stress. In fact, it has been brilliant. I hate going shopping and would never think of going down to a pub for company. I have treated lock down as if I were going on a two month patrol and set myself a list of tasks to complete before it ended. One was to put a roof extension on the logstore. I did. The following evening I walked into it. 


    It is surprising how much we do from mental models* rather than by visual reaction. Ever found yourself feeling for the phantom gear stick in a new car or tripping over something in the dark that didn't used to be there?

    Bats live by sound, not sight. In one experiment a bat was put in a divided chamber with one third of the partition opened up only at meal times to let it through into the other half for food. When first introduced, the bat went round pinging like mad until it had built up a picture it in its memory. Thereafter, it pinged very little. It was familiar with its surroundings. Then the researcher moved the opening in the partition to the other side and the bat flew into the closed side of the partition.

    I was that bat. Who the hell put a roof extension on the old logstore?

    * By 'mental model', I mean a memorised picture, not a mad manequin.








  13. 2nd April, 2020

    Love is joyful.
    Love is kind.
    Love is precious.
    Love is blind. 

    But let me tell you this,
    My friend.
    It’s always painful
    In the end.

    Today is the fifteenth anniversary of losing my beloved wife, Kate, to breast cancer. Hard to believe. It was so difficult back then to comprehend that the woman to whom I had been bonded for forty years, no longer existed. Life without her had been beyond the bounds of my imagination. But there is life after death, or at least after bereavement. It has been a tumultuous and very happy fifteen years. As always, I count my blessings. 

  14. This year, 2020, sees the 75th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War in which some 80 million people died. That means that only citizens over the age of eighty have any real memory of Britain being under attack. This lengthy peace has not happened by accident or luck. We have been living under a nuclear umbrella known as Strategic Nuclear Deterrence, formerly known as Mutually Assured Destruction. Initially, our deterrent posture was maintained by the V-Bombers of the Royal Air Force but in 1968, with the advent of intercontinental-ballistic-missile-firing, nuclear-powered submarines (SSBNs), the Royal Navy inherited the role. These submarines have now maintained continuous deterrent patrolling for over fifty years - there's one on patrol right now - but does anyone ever stop to think of the human beings involved? 

    SSBN Departure 


    In the bowels of a beast with a heart of steel,
    in Neptune’s black abyss,
    stand sixteen silent sentinels
    on watch o'er Britain's peace.
    And through the black abyssal deep, each day of every year,
    the Reaper ploughs the ocean,
    and sows the seeds of fear.


    In the bowels of the beast with the heart of steel
    where the nuclear cauldron boils,
    a hundred brave submariners
    attend their awesome toils.
    Whilst snug in quilted feather beds, full fifty million sleep,
    and spare no thought for those at sea
    nor pray their souls will keep.

    This poem, first published in my book On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service, was broadcast on United States radio by Donna Seebo, a book reviewer. (See under 'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service')


  15. I have the good fortune to live in the country and my cottage is like a hide for observing my fellow creatures. I have now observed some sixty species of bird as well as the usual crop of mice, squirrels, hedgehogs, plus the odd fox or deer. However, my life has just been enriched by a new neighbour, Mr Hare. He arrived one afternoon in front of my kitchen window and, completely unaware that he was being watched, began a thorough grooming before settling down for his afternoon zizz. He was completely relaxed and utterly free. Wonderful, a real feel-good experience. Why would anyonewant to kill him?

    PS One year later. Just spotted a young hare in my garden. Mr Hare must have started a family.


  16. On Saturday 30th March, I appeared at Glasgow's 'Aye Write' Book Festival in the iconic Mitchell Library, one of Europe's largest public libraries, and it did feel good to be 'on stage' for something I had written. Even better, I had a full-house audience of about sixty in my venue. That may not seem a lot but the organisers were thrilled as a very well-known TV sports personality, flown up from London specially, had achieved an audience of only eight.

    A particularly pleasing aspect of the event were that a young university graduate (Nottingham, I think) who had applied to join the Navy and had read my book, turned up to meet me. How wonderful to think that an old git like me can still connect with a very much younger generation. (The young man has since been accepted into the Royal Navy and is currently undergoing officer training at Dartmouth). After my presentation, I was asked to autograph books sold - all very humbling. (Waterstones were selling the books).

    PS At his invitation, he invited me to be his guest at his Passing Out Parade at Dartmouth where I meet his family. Wonderful!

    Glasgows Aye Write festival

     As I am accustomed to public speaking, facing an audience held no terrors for me. My only anxiety was whether or not my Powerpoint audio/visual slide show would run on cue on the Library's system. It did. Phew! I have nightmares about technical hitches in the middle of carefully constructed presentations. (I'm trying to find out how to put this slideshow into my website; watch this space).



  17. Sometimes phone calls bring good news. In early November, I received a call from the Secretary of the Maritime Trust, an organisation which spans all aspects of maritime activity ranging from fishing, commercial shipping, cruise liners, research vessels, yachting, lifeboats, harbours, wreck hunting, ship design, marine nature reserves and marine conservation through to the activities of the Royal Navy. In short, everything to do with the sea. My book, On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service, had just been shortlisted to the last four out of thirty-eight entries for the Mountbatten Best Book Award 2108. 'Could I attend the Awards Dinner in Drapers' Hall in London. Of course I could!

    This was truly a grand event with lords and ladies, MPs, industry VIPs and no less than three First Sea Lords in attendance, one being Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce who joined the Navy with me and provided the Foreword to my book, though that was pure coincidence. In the event I was runner-up to a brilliant book called 'The Wreck Hunter', and had to take the stage to receive a Certificate of Merit from the current First Sea Lord. I have to thank my old submarine colleague Commander Rupert Best for having nominated the book.

    (See section on 'On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service')

  18. In June, I was invited to be Chieftain of the Helensburgh Pipe Band Competition, which involved fifteen bands, four of which were school bands. My duties involved leading the parade at the start, presenting prizes and taking the salute at the end as the massed bands marched off. I have often been thrilled by watching the massed pipes and drums at the Edinburgh Tattoo from high in the stands but this time I was at eye level as the bands marched straight up to me and about turned within touching distance. It made the hairs on my neck stand up.

    Pipe Band Competition - massed band

    As I was not a clan chieftain and not entitled to wear eagle feathers in my hat, I decided to wear my submarine beret with my Submariners' Association cap badge. That seemed appropriate as the Submarine Service is in effect the local regiment in Helensburgh.

    Chieftain - Pipe Band Comp 2018

    By coincidence, a few weeks later, I happened to be visiting Aubigny-sur-Nere, near Orleans in France. This is where the Stewart kings lived in exile and the town is more Scottish than most Scottish towns. It was the weekend of their annual Fete Franco-Ecossais and the town was throbbing with people in all manner of kilts, including traditional plaid versions, but none of them were Scottish. This was the French end of the Auld Alliance. There was also a parade of seven pipe bands, none of which were Scottish. There were four Scottish-style bands from Paris, Geneva, Britanny and Aubigny as well as two traditional Breton bands and one from Asturias in Spain, the latter winning my prize for elegence as the ladies wore long skirts and seemed to float up the main street rather than marching. I was please to note that one traditional Breton band had pipes that were clearly 'Made in Scotland'.

    Asturian pipe badnd

    A Breton pipe Band

    Made in Scotland

    Aubigny sur Nere pipe band